ANTIGONE CONTEMPLATES HER CHOICES AT 4:23 AM

by Jennifer Franklin

Let’s go back to the first choice.

The one that married me

 

to suffering and sleep deprivation.

Go back to the hospital bed

 

where I lay—tubes wrapped

around me as if I were a gift.

 

Return to the moment a psychiatrist 

was sent to stand above my bed

 

like a sentry because I wanted to end

the life inside me to stop my incessant

 

vomiting. Let’s go back to the moment

my mother convinced me to put myself

 

last as mothers have been doing

to daughters for millennia. To her eyes

 

as they watched me sign my release

papers. Let’s return to the silent drive

 

to the new house she bought for me

and my new husband and unpacked

 

her suitcase to nurse me for thirteen weeks

and make sure I didn’t slink back

 

to the hospital in an ambulance

and end it all the way I wanted to. Let’s

 

return to that room where I could have

stood up to her and said she was not

 

the one being ravaged by illness, 

not the one who lost thirty-five pounds.

 

That she would not have to raise the child

if something went wrong. Go back

 

to the disinfectant, the cornflower blue

gowns. The nurses pricking my hands

 

with needles. Go back to the moment

before I would always be controlled

 

by my mother, by my daughter. Go back.

Go back. Go back. Now that I love her

 

there is no way out, not even a noose

around my neck.

About the Author

Jennifer Franklin (AB Brown University, MFA Columbia University School of the Arts) is the author of two full collections, most recently No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018). Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Blackbird, Boston Review, New England Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, JAMA, Love’s Executive Order, The Nation, Paris Review, Plume, “poem-a-day” on poets.org, and Prairie Schooner. She currently teaches in the Manhattanville MFA program. For the past seven years, she has taught manuscript revision at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, where she serves as Program Director and co-edits Slapering Hol Press. She lives in New York City.